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Phoebe Merrick

Look at Romsey

Town Design Statement for Romsey

Romsey Old Town

Prepared by a team of volunteers in the area under the auspices of the
Romsey and District Society.

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Settings and Views

Romsey from Green Hill
Romsey from Green Hill

Romsey Old Town encompasses the historic core of Romsey with the Norman Abbey church at its heart. It is the area of built-up Romsey as it existed in I840. The old town is sited on the floor of the Test valley, slightly above the level of the River Test. The A3090 Romsey By-pass forms its border on the south side with the extensive grounds of the centuries-old Broadlands estate lying beyond. The main channel of the river runs to the west, while the northern and eastern boundaries snake through the built-up area of modern Romsey. The proximity of the town to the New Forest and the Hampshire coast is an additional feature.

The main stream of the river flows from north to south and various streams and braids, or offshoots, of the River Test flow through the middle of the town. The only exception is the Tadburn Lake, a small tributary of the Test, which flows in from the east. It is visible beside the By-pass road.
River Test north from Middlebridge
River Test north from Middlebridge

In the vicinity of Romsey, the valley floor is wide and fairly level and has hills rising up to plateaux on either side. Green Hill, on the western ridge has an interesting line of trees which form an important part of the landscape. From Green Hill there is an informal viewpoint beside the A27 from which the observer can look across the valley and experience a classic view of Romsey and its Abbey church with a surrounding pastoral vista of meadows. The main focus of the town, the Abbey church, blends well into this setting and it is easy to underestimate its height and size.
The eastern skyline is less dramatic, but of considerable importance to it is the old cemetery in Botley Road, the chapels and trees of which form part of the outline.

Turrets in the corner of the Market Place
Turrets in the corner of the Market Place
  East end of Romsey Abbey Church
East end of Romsey Abbey Church

Apart from the Abbey church there are no very tall buildings in Romsey. However the skyline is distinguished by a number of very interesting old buildings which are above the average roof level. The turrets of the United Reformed Church (URC) and the nearby Lloyds TSB Bank, both close to the Abbey church, together with the tower of the former Brewery buildings are man-made landmarks of distinction.

Design Recommendations

Arrow Maintain views of the town’s varied skyline, including those of the Abbey church.

 

Settlement Pattern

Abbey Church from Market Place
Abbey Church from Market Place
A Benedictine abbey of nuns was established in the latter part of the tenth century, possibly on the site of an older religious settlement. The abbey was the focus around which the town grew. The present church was built in the twelfth century and extended in the thirteenth century.
Romsey remained small and close to the Abbey church until the pressures of the later twentieth century caused significant expansion as well as much infilling of land previously assigned to agricultural use.

To the east of the Abbey precinct lies the town centre, the Market Place. It has main arterial roads running from it to the north, south and east.

Church Street and The Horsefair lead northwards into Cherville Street. The eastward road is called The Hundred whilst Bell Street and Middlebridge Street are the southward bound roads. Within this framework are several other ancient streets such as Newton Lane, Latimer Street, Portersbridge Street, Love Lane, Mill Lane and Banning Street. Much of this ancient area is within the town’s conservation area.

Church Street
Church Street

The Hundred
The Hundred
In the last seventy years, several new roads have been created, the most significant of which were the By-pass (in the 1930s) and Broadwater Road (about 1970) each taking pressure off The Hundred. In addition there are several new roads which are residential cul-de-sacs, such as Hollman Drive, Millstream Rise, Riverside Gardens and Rivermead Close, as well as an extension of Newton Lane and several smaller closes.

The building line is fairly continuous in most of the streets, with occasional small gaps or alleyways between buildings. In the oldest streets, front gardens are rare and houses abut the pavements. However some houses have small front gardens, often paved, as may be seen in Palmerston Street, Linden Road and Middlebridge Street. Bell Street
Bell Street

Palmerston Street
Palmerston Street
Few houses in the older parts of the town have front gardens large enough to turn into car parking spaces, so views of the old town houses are not interrupted by cars parked on their owners’ forecourts. On the south side of Middlebridge Street, a stream runs between the houses and the road.

In the newer developments such as Riverside Gardens and Rivermead Close, the terraced houses are set among lawns and, in general, vehicles cannot get near the front doors. The most recent developments, such as Bark Mill Mews, Chavy Water and Newton Lane have houses arranged around courtyards, in which provision is made for parking. There is dedicated residents’ parking space for the flats in Broadwater Road. Recent development in Newton Lane
Recent development in Newton Lane

Town Hall and adjacent shops
Town Hall and adjacent shops
Light industrial activity developed during the later years of the nineteenth century, largely related to agriculture and included paper making, milling, timber yards, slaughter houses and leather processing. More significant was the development of breweries, a jam factory and Berthon’s boat yard. All this must have created a dirty and smelly atmosphere which has long gone. The main employment now is in the shops, offices and small businesses. Present day commercial properties are still mainly centred around the Market Place, along Bell Street and Church Street, in the vicinity of The Hundred and in Latimer Street.

Most of the public and community buildings of Romsey are to be found in the historic core, with many others close by in the ‘Outer Core’. (See separate Design Statement.)

Among the public buildings are the Town Hall, Crosfield Hall, and the Age Concern Hall. Romsey Abbey Primary School is located in Church Lane, near the Abbey church. A doctors’ surgery is nearby and there are at least four dental practices in the town centre area. Six of the town’s churches are to be found in the town centre and each has its own hall. Entrance to Crosfield Hall
Entrance to Crosfield Hall

The White Horse in Market Place
The White Horse in Market Place
The town has several bank and building society branches and a Post Office. There is a wide variety of shops, many of them small, but several national chains are represented. The town has a department store and a large supermarket; these two being at opposite ends of the shopping area.

The town is well provided with a range of hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation, restaurants and public houses, many of which are in historic buildings. The Royal British Legion has a substantial new building in Love Lane.

The vibrant town centre is an attractive place in which to live. Because it is largely level, it is particularly convenient for frail people. There are several establishments that provide sheltered accommodation.

These include two sets of almshouses, established in previous centuries, and several warden-assisted apartment blocks as well as nursing homes.

Marie Louise House nursing home, seen from Memorial Park
Marie Louise House nursing home,
seen from Memorial Park

Pressure for housing land close to the town centre has resulted in building west of the historic urban limits, closer to braids of the river. In addition, in the 1960s, the former Romsey Borough Council demolished most of Banning Street and built a series of blocks of flats parallel to the Tadburn. They were originally referred to as ‘rear of The Hundred’ a name that became obsolete after Broadwater Road was created. Some long-standing Romsey families still live in the town centre but many people have moved in from farther afield.

The Abbey seen from the bus station
The Abbey seen from the bus station
The town has several bank and building society branches and a Post Office. There is a wide variety of shops, many of them small, but several national chains are represented. The town has a department store and a large supermarket; these two being at opposite ends of the shopping area.

 

Open and Other spaces

The largest public open space is the Romsey War Memorial Park. It is owned by Test Valley Borough Council and is bordered by two braids of the River Test. Amenities include a children's playground, tennis courts, a bowling green, and a bandstand. It has a Japanese gun from the Second World War which was presented to the town by Lord Mountbatten. The War Memorial commemorating the fallen in the two world wars is the focus of Romsey's annual Armistice Day ceremony. Playground in the Memorial Park seen from The Causeway
Playground in the Memorial Park
seen from The Causeway

There are open spaces, called garths, on both the north and south sides of the Abbey church, grassed over and planted with some specimen trees. Until the 1850s townspeople were buried here, but the gravestones have since been laid down to form a walkway and only a few remain standing. In addition there is a small garden off Abbey Water that was the burial ground of the Congregational Church (now the URC) in the nineteenth century and open ground at the west end of the Abbey church.

King John's Garden, adjacent to the thirteenth-century King John's House is a beautiful and tranquil public garden in a busy part of town. It is maintained by volunteers and concentrates on historical species of plants

Romsey Bypass in winter
Romsey Bypass in winter
There is a wide verge along much of the By-pass which culminates in an open triangle of grass at the western end. This is one of the first views of the town to traffic once it has crossed Middlebridge. At the junction with Palmerston Street, there is a wide area of grass and trees adjacent to the Tadburn Lake. It is in private hands, but open to view and adds to the rural aspect of the town.

There are a number of large gardens and other green open spaces within the town centre. These include the grounds of The Daughters of Wisdom Convent (formerly La Sagesse) and those of Romsey Abbey Primary School. Some large private grounds exist adjacent to the river, some of which can be seen from nearby bridges. There are some smaller, though still substantial, private gardens attached to older houses throughout the town.

Several of the post-1960 housing developments have communal gardens for the use of residents. Among the more visible are the lawns around the flats in Broadwater Road which have been fenced in and landscaped to give a pleasant aspect and a sense of ownership for the residents.

As befits an urban area, there are some open spaces that are hard-landscaped. The triangular Market Place is the largest of these and it is dominated by a statue of Lord Palmerston, sometime Prime Minister and owner of Broadlands. The area is partially softened by tubs of flowers. Access considerations mean that the Market Place is constantly used by vehicles.

Near the Market Place is the smaller Corn Market where traffic is restricted. Markets are held here three times a week. Other pedestrian spaces include Duke’s Mill precinct and at Church Place, both of which have recently been landscaped. Church Place forms a welcoming approach to the Abbey church although the space is shared by pedestrians and vehicles. The Corn Market
The Corn Market

Design Recommendations

Arrow The existing green spaces enhance the area and should be maintained appropriately.
Arrow The triangle of grass land at the junction of Middlebridge Street and the By-pass should be improved to give a greater village green effect.

 

Streams and Waterways

Despite the many streams that traverse the town centre, there are very few places where people can walk along the river banks. A popular riverside walk, adjacent to the town centre, is the Causeway on the River Test between Middlebridge and the Salmon Leap at Sadlers Mill. The stretch beside the river is no more than 300 yards. The path then turns east towards the War Memorial Park. The route crosses two bridges over braids of the river where water can be seen although giving no access to the banks. This is partly to protect private fishing rights as the Test is internationally renowned for dry fly fishing for trout.

View of stream and fish farm from Hollman Drive
View of stream and fish farm from Hollman Drive
Many braids of the river can be seen from public places such as the Memorial Park and from roads including Rivermead Close, Riverside Gardens, Little Meads, Mill Lane, Millstream Rise and Hollman Drive. In addition, there is a short footpath from the north of Hollman Drive to Priestlands that is beside water.

The Fishlake stream cannot be seen from public land until the eastern branch is in the vicinity of Portersbridge Street where it is called the Holbrook. It acts as an attractive backdrop to King John’s Garden before disappearing under the old stable block of the White Horse. It can next be seen between the bus station and Bradbeers’ department store. Its course can then be followed through Duke’s Mill precinct and along Middlebridge Street, with one off-shoot turning south through Chavy Water.

The western branch of the Fishlake can be seen in Abbey Water, where it is enclosed by a concrete wall and industrial railings. Part of it flows down Coleman’s Ditch, adjacent to The Meads, where it is largely hidden behind another concrete wall, and part of it can be seen in the new part of Newton Lane in a park-like setting. Abbey Water
Abbey Water

Tadburn Lake immediately before the Bypass
Tadburn Lake immediately before the Bypass
Tadburn Lake flows alongside much of the By-pass and its course can be followed until it flows under the road into the grounds of Broadlands, where it eventually joins the main river.

Design Recommendations

Arrow Enhance the appearance of the barrier around Abbey Water
Arrow Enhance the wall along Coleman’s Ditch
Arrow Make it easier for people to walk beside the streams
Arrow Owners of banks of streams should be encouraged to maintain them appropriately.
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Settings, Views & Settlement Pattern - Area 8